7.0 La Table d'Adrien, 9, rue Volney in the 2nd, 01.42.61.00.44 has a 50 E menu with wine included and is only open for lunch, by reservation.
Every once in a while, a meal is so surprising and so wonderful that you just are bursting to tell everyone about it, in a dozen different ways. I arrived in Paris today after 5 weeks away, traipsing through Manhattan's museums, motoring through New England, walking in the mountains of Colorado and boating/hiking/limping in and around the coves of the central Maine coast. The food, while often interesting (eg at Jean Georges new presentation in NY), retro (at a classic local pub/pizzeria in New Jersey) and just plain great local product (in Maine) left me unprepared for today.
I arrived on good old Flight #914 from Dulles and while jet-lagged bigtime, was ready to hit the ground running (and that, even though I narrowly avoided the real thing with the 82nd Airborne during Viet Nam) I knew how to do. But where to go? I had this list of 25 possibilities gathered from intelligence garnered during the vacances, but most places were rumored or suggested by one source without confirmation from the rating boys.
So, almost by hazard, I picked the Table d'Adrien in the 2nd and called at 11:30 AM to reserve.
He: Bonjour, la Table d'Adrien.
Me: (trans) Good day. I'd like to reserve a table for one for 12:30.
He: Do you know us?
Me: (Oh, oh) Not at all.
He: We're a club.
He: How did you learn about us?
Me: Ahhhh, I saw the review in Alain Fusion's lesrestos.com.
He: (much later) I don't do the internet, I'll ask my son.
He: But we can accommodate occasional guests (I think = riff-raff).
Me: Is that possible today?
He: But of course, in what name?
He: Ah, a great wine.
Me: Which, the Bordeaux red or California white?
He: Mumble, mumble. Til then.
So I arrive, quickly scope the menu outside, am offered one of the last two tables and install myself. All business-folk, looks pretty serious.
Immediately a glass of crisp white wine is poured (ah, ha, just like Mon Viel Ami, conclusion : they've got class). Then a dish of incredibly spicy, delicious thickly sliced and coarsely diced sausage appears.
Me: This is great.
He: Nah, it's Spanish, just wait.
Then no presentation of a menu, but he leans over besides me and says into my ear:
He: What would you like for a starter?
Me: Ah, the foie gras (which I'd seen on the menu outside and on the table beside me served both mi-cuit and sautéed) would suit me (not realizing his business card says "Foie Gras Maison").
He: Then do you like fish or meat?
Me: Hummmm. Such as what meat?
He: An entrecote, magret or rognons.
Me: Yes, the rognons.
He: You sure you wouldn't like just a touch of beef?
Me: Why not?
He: Cooked how, saignant?
Me: Oh no, blue.
He: And for wine, a Bordeaux or perhaps.....
Me: Stop right there, the Bordeaux would be perfect.
The foie gras, which he leaned over again to assure me was made here, was superb; perhaps the best sautéed foie gras ever (with a crispy crust and spiced bread that was so sweet it worked better not with but just after and before bites of foie gras) and among the best micuit (equaling that at La Grande Cascade circa 1978, my gold standard). At this point I could have died and gone to heaven a happy man.
But then came the rognons with a red wine sauce with shallots and chocolate which was incredibly light but the filet of beef was again extraordinary and I polished off what was hardly a small portion cooked blue to perfection.
He: Our desserts are the best part of the meal but first how about some cheese?
Me: (I have no room for either but knew the desserts were on the 50E menu with a first, main and wine and wasn't sure about the cheese which I knew I'd be having some of with my buddy Phyllis tonight). Just the dessert.
But as he was speaking the order into the dumb-waiter I was struck like Saul on the road to Damascus and an internal voice said "Schmuck, this place is special, it's your first day back in 5 weeks, go for it."
Me: Just a little, after all.
He: And of course a little aged Porto to go with it.
The first was a semi-solid Jura, the second a blue Forme d'Ambert and the third a brie-like Eastern cheese; all served with a salad with a light pine-nut studded dressing.
The desserts were a pear atop chocolate tart, creme caramel (ancien) and apple tart (ancien), the latter of star quality.
Then before I could order coffee a generous pour of Bas Armagnac appeared. Wow!
Now while I'd been listening to and chatting a bit with both Mr (Adrien) and Mrs (Judite) throughout the meal, when I expressed interest after the meal in some arcane detail, he sat down, and without ignoring the other clients talked with me for a wonderfully long time. I am not a chat-em-up-kinda-guy, in fact Colette thinks I'm aggressively anti or asocial, and I envy critics like Margaret Kemp who have a great facility at chatting-em-up. But this was real fun. Meanwhile Madame plunked herself down and started reading my print-out of Fusion's review; "Not bad she said."
At this point I had decided this was certainly the best meal of the summer and perhaps the year, not to mention the price-quality ratio but now comes the caution dear reader. They comp'd me the meal (and at this point they didn't know who I was). Now I'm a bear when it comes to mistrusting doctors who say their prescribing practices are unaffected by Big Pharma sponsored golf weekends and steak dinners at Ruths Chris because the literature shows the opposite; and I'm equally skeptical that critics on the take write the same reviews that the disguised Bruni's and Greene's do.
So I guess you'll just have to assume that my judgment may have been influenced.
But, in any case, it was sure a hellofa meal.
PS As a reminder, my scale is as follows (subject to fickleness and change):
10 - Giradet in the old days.
9 - Ducasse, Bocuse, Loiseau in their prime
8 - Ze Kitchen Galerie now
7- Bistro Cote Mer at its flowering best and Clocher Pereire now
6 - Repaire de Cartouche
5 - Le Cafe qui Parle
4 - 2 Pièces Cuisine, a neighborhood place
3 - Le Truc, ditto
2 - Sale + Pepe, double ditto
1 - le Nord-Sud, triple ditto
0 - Auguste, The Place